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  • Writer's pictureJoanna


I have officially arrived in Guayaquil.

It was definitely bittersweet.

I went through the usual and consistent insecurities while departing the plane... going through security... awaiting my luggage and, of course, heading down that long corridor to the open double doors of anxiously awaiting friends and family...

In fact, every turn I made, I thought "Oh God... the arrivals lounge"... then it would just be another airport hallway... I was trying to remember if I was more nervous this time or the first time that I flew in to Guayaquil.  Perhaps the first time, because I didn't speak ANY Spanish, had no idea what was waiting for me... and also, regardless of whether I like the people waiting beyond the double doors or not, I was stuck with them for a year.  It was a lot for an 18 year old punk to process at the time. 

You would think that by the time I actually reached the arrivals lounge, I would have my emotions in check, tears dried up and I'd be strong enough to just walk in and say "hey."  Casual.  Cool.


Bags in hand, heading down that hallway, fidgeting the entire time... sunglasses on, sunglasses off... I suddenly saw them waiting there, right in front of the door.  They were difficult to miss with their balloons and 'Welcome Joanna' sign.

Before I even made it through the double doors, the flood gates opened and emotion over took.  I threw my bags aside, arms in the air, tears streaming down my face!  


I threw my arms around her!  

She just kept saying "Mi hija. Que linda!"  Spanish, English... it didn't matter.  We were back together again.

Krystel, the daughter of Mari, was there, as well as Melanie and Dana, the beautiful daughters of Duvalito.  

Conversation was limited... but feasible.  My problem right now is the I know some words & verbs... some past tense, some present, some future... but definitely not all.  So mostly I just throw random words out there, in no particular order... and eliminate the words I can't remember from any conversation I'm attempting... which proves well for communication if you enjoy broken, confusing, unfathomable sentences of mispronounced words.  Sometimes I even shake it up a little bit and say something in French.  I try to keep everyone on their toes... including myself.

We all crammed in Mari's little white car and headed home, with a quick stop at SuperMaxi to pick up some much needed supplies for myself.  I assured the family that I had both Google translate and a Speak To Spanish app on my phone... we were going to be ok... fingers crossed.

We headed North to where everyone lived, in an area that was not built when I lived here... so it was difficult to recognize anything.  And the HEAT... love the heat.

I kept trying to explain how cold it was in Quito, and how I'd been wearing the same outfit for a week... but then I realized that due to my lack of Spanish knowledge and my certain inability in being able to piece the proper words together that I did know, I was only making myself out to sound like a dirty bum.  So I shut up.

I was promised laundry back at the house.  Dreams do come true. 

The day was spent mostly just trying to get to know each other again, with our limited communication.  A lot of smiles and then some more smiles.., but honestly, the entire day, we didn't stop talking.  Their English isn't great at all... so Spanish it is.

It better come sooner that later.  

Mari is on holidays from work until next week, so we have planned a trip to Cuenca for the weekend. There is a Devil's Nose mountain train excursion that I have been wanting to go on, that won't accept less than 2 people - stick that to the singles out there.  How rude.  

Mari had been looking in to another tour- double the price... train without mountains... and not going to Cuenca...  Finally, I had to say no, because the whole reason for the train ride was to see the mountains and experience close to what I had experienced before.  I'm not hard up for a boring train ride.  And not to see Cuenca?  Well that would just mean that I would have to go again another day.  

But it all worked out.  We are going to rent a car, head in to the mountains on Saturday- stay at a hostel for the weekend- and do the tour on Sunday. Returning on Monday.  Should be fun.  Hope my Spanish is better by then...

Duval (my host brother) and his wife came by in the night for a visit.  His wife, Pamela, is the reason that I found the family in the first place.  When I searched out 'Duval Muentes' in facebook, it was a photo of the two of them from her profile that appeared.  By the time they left, my Spanish had improved 10 fold.  All questions were directed at me and I either had to understand or figure it out... either way, I had to answer.  

There were a LOT of laughs and reminiscing.

Mami is the same... although she is 26 years older, and has gone through such a difficult time losing Papi... she is still beautiful and tiny!  I tower over her.

When Papi got ill... it cost so much money that the family had to sell off everything that they had to help with medical bills. She explained to me that she had to sell all her possessions, jewelry... and go live in New York for 6 months to work in a factory... just to send money back to Ecuador to help out financially.  

It broke my heart to hear this.  

Papi was such a grand man... full of life and smiles.   And so incredibly generous.  

This picture below was at a celebration of Reina de la Tercera Edad Ecuador.  How do I explain this?  It was almost like a beauty pageant for older ladies.  Anyway- my host grandmother was a participant, and at this particular event, Papi said to me: "You is my son."  

I wasn't insulted, due to the fact that he was three sheets to the wind, didn't speak Spanish... and what he actually meant to say was "You are my daughter" ... and that meant a lot.

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